The door has closed on Johnny Manziel's college football career as he announced on Wednesday that he is "ready to make [his] dream a reality" and declared for the NFL draft. Life is about to get even more complicated for the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner as he will be one of the most discussed players over the next few months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft.
If you are a general manager of an NFL team that is looking for a quarterback, look no further than the former Texas A&M passer. Teddy Bridgewater, of Louisville, will likely be the first off the board, but after Bridgewater, Manziel should be the guy GMs are clamoring to add to the roster. The kid is a great leader who loves football, wants nothing more than to win and he's a mighty fine quarterback prospect as well.
The anti-Manziel crowd will be out in full force in the months leading up to the combine and will get even louder when draft day comes. They will scream about his off-the-field antics. They will tell tales of his immaturity and mention how he is a jerk. They will talk about the autograph scandal and subsequent NCAA investigation that ultimately amounted to nothing.
These folks have been around since he was popping bottles after the Cotton Bowl win. They showed up, as expected, after the Johnny Football they thought they knew at the Heisman ceremony turned out to be a fun-loving college guy with enough family money to enjoy some of the finer things in life. They are the folks who got real loud after the Manning Passing Academy incident, and chirped hard when Manziel got the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for jawing with a Rice player.
It is a group littered with 'moralists' who want Johnny Football to fit into their box.
Simple advice on dealing with these folks? Ignore them.
The fact is, Manziel is a winner who is loved by his teammates and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. The selfishness folks mention? The quarterback cost his team once this year, against Rice, in a spot when the Aggies had a hefty lead and it ultimately amounted to nothing.
From that point on, he was the picture of poise. In Oxford, the quarterback's knee buckled in what looked to be an ugly injury. It was merely a scare as Manziel got back out on the field and showed he was still capable of making defenders miss. His final drive against the Rebels, in a winning effort, was a testament to his teammates believing he could get it done, and the quarterback delivered.
Against Auburn, Manziel suffered a shoulder injury, but he made sure he was out on the field to keep the Aggies in the game. The defense couldn't get a stop, but Manziel fought through the pain to put up the 41 points that would fall just short of the victory. It was a winning effort with no W to show for it.
After Texas A&M struggled on the road against No. 14 LSU and No. 5 Missouri, Manziel returned to form, rested and healthy in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. After trailing Duke 38-17 at the half, Johnny Football came alive under the bright lights, leading the offense into the end zone for four offensive touchdowns in the second half to play catch-up to the Blue Devils in order to get the New Year's Eve victory.
More important than the win?
How Manziel handled the game itself. The redshirt sophomore got his classmate, Mike Evans, under control following the big receiver's early angry outburst. Even when the game looked like it was slipping away, the 2012 Heisman winner kept himself and his offense focused.
Most importantly, the quarterback got the defense fired up. He let them know that he believed in them, that the game belonged to A&M and it was up to the defense to go out and snatch the victory for the Aggies. It was the defense understanding that its leader needed it to bow its neck and get a win that made the difference as the much-maligned unit iced the game in its final minutes.
There is, of course, more to Manziel than the simple buzzwords. After all, GMs don't just want a winner or a leader, it is understood that they'd also like to get a real, actual, high quality quarterback.
Make no mistake, Johnny Football has them covered there.
A season ago, the quarterback was a runner who could throw the ball down the field when he had to. He had Heisman moments that were rooted in hoping no one hit him and trying to keep the ball moving toward the end zone. He was a phenomenal player, but not a very good quarterback.
That changed in 2013, when Manziel answered the bell at the quarterback spot. Texas A&M asked him to work through his reads, and he did it. Texas A&M asked him to get through a progression, and he did it. Texas A&M asked him to be patient in the pocket, and he did it. Everything that Johnny Football needed to work on to become Johnny Quarterback, he did, and that work showed up in his play on Saturdays.
In 2013, he proved the doubters wrong as he showed he could make effective adjustments and had not yet reached his ceiling. He made himself into a quarterback by growing up with the offense and expanding his play at the position. He displayed the arm to make the long throws and the touch to make the short throws.
Against Duke, standing on the NFL right hash, the quarterback pushed the ball to the left sideline on a rope. That throw displayed not just the distance, but the velocity that is a must to stop cornerbacks from breaking up the long pass.
Oh, and he still has that knack for getting out of trouble and doing something special when he has to.
GMs in the NFL, pull the trigger on Manziel, he's a guy that a team on the quarterback hunt cannot afford to pass up.